There are three main kinds of live aquarium plants which can be kept in your aquarium and they will need different treatment depending on which category they fall into. before you buy substrate for your tank, it is not needed for all kinds of planted aquariums.
Using live aquarium plants in your tank is one of the best things that you can do for the overall health of the aquarium as the range of benefits that plants offer is huge. Aeration and extra filtration is the beginning, with lower levels of stress and diseases in the tank as another side effect to name just a few. Preparation of plants is important, but when you are using them successfully, aesthetically the tank is greatly enhanced as are the general conditions felt by fish and invertebrates. If you are tempted by plants it is possible to find something suitable for your level of experience.
There are three main categories of aquatic plants and these are rooted plants, bunched plants and floating plants. Rooted plants are sold as they are with roots and will require individual planting and a good substrate between three to eight millimetres for each grain. If you are going to keep rooted plants in a glass aquarium take care to ensure the roots are properly heated. Bunched plants are normally sold as cutting without roots and most will require strong light to grow properly. Finally floating plants are the last kind, floating above or below the surface of the water. They generally will not root and may need to be protected from over lighting.
A few examples of easily kept rooted plants are Anubias, which come in many different varieties and many different species of Cryptocoryne, which it is advisable to attempt to avoid moving too much. An easy to grow free floating plant is Ceratoperis which requires soft acidic water but can root in the right conditions. If you are serious about growing live aquarium plants then there are a great range of species that can be kept, however it is important that water conditions are similar to that of your fish.
When choosing a substrate for a planted aquarium, if the plants do not have all the macronutrients they need it is likely they may die or sicken. If possible choose substrates which contain all the nutrients rooted plants will need without phosphates and nitrate. Floating plants which do not need to root are a good choice for many beginners to gain some experience from.